DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (2010)

July 31, 2010

 Greetings again from the darkness. I fully expected this to be an all-out raunch-com in the vein of The Hangover, and I was absolutely mistaken. The film only slips into slapstick and physical punchyness at the lowest part of the actual dinner. The rest of the movie is pretty basic and set somewhere near real life.

Often, real life situations bring the most humor. Sadly, that’s not the case here. Most of this one is just plain boring. There are some very talented people associated and they all do a fine job. It’s just that the pieces don’t make up an enticing whole. The film basically rides on the shoulders of the talented Steve Carell as Barry. Barry is a genuinely nice guy whose wife left him for his boss (Zach Galfianakis), and his hobby is making intricate displays of dressed up dead mice … his “mouseterpieces”, he calls them.

Paul Rudd plays Tim, another genuinely nice guy trying very hard to make it in the business world. He has the right car and a great apartment and a beautiful girlfriend (Stephanie Szostack) who doesn’t think it’s time for them to be married. Tim seizes an opportunity at work to go for a promotion. This gets him invited to his boss’s monthly dinner party where all the managers bring a guest with extraordinary skills … the titular schmucks. The point is to have a good laugh at the expense of the idiots. Obviously Tim runs into Barry and the guest list is complete.

Tim explains to his girlfriend that there is a “me you don’t know” who has to do things in order to get ahead at work. I really wanted to see more of THAT guy! Instead, we are subjected to another film that just doesn’t know how to take advantage of Paul Rudd’s talent. He is a funny guy and you would never know it here.

If not for Steve Carell and an outlandish performance by Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) as an “artist”, this film would be totally flat. Instead, there are a few laughs and an underlying theme about the sweetness of some people. It tries to ask the question, who are the real schmucks? Director Jay Roach is responsible for the Austin Powers and the Meet the Parents franchises. He obviously knows humor. He takes this one from a French film directed by Francis Veber called The Dinner Game. In that film, we never actually get to the dinner. In this one, the film sinks to its lowest point during the dinner. Lesson learned. Best part? Hearing the Beatles during the opening and closing credits.